Hailey Herrera, 25, Dies; Therapy Student Focused on Families

Hailey Herrera, 25, Dies; Therapy Student Focused on Families

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Hailey Herrera was that friend you went to when you had a problem. So she turned that gift into a profession.

“She was Dear Abby,” her mother, Valerie Herrera, said. “Everyone wanted to come to her to ask her for advice. She said: ‘Mom, I am doing this all for free. I might as well do it for a career and get paid for it.’”

Ms. Herrera decided to become a therapist. She was working on a master’s degree in the marriage and family therapy program at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., when she died on April 7 at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. She was 25.

The cause was complications related to the new coronavirus, Mrs. Herrera said.

Her mother, who also recently tested positive for the virus, said her daughter had been seeing patients at an Iona clinic in New Rochelle and at Aristotle’s Psychological Center in Astoria, Queens, where she had an internship. Both areas have had a high number of coronavirus infections.

Ms. Herrera started feeling sick on March 16 and went into the hospital about a week later, her mother said.

Hailey Marie Herrera was born on Sept. 2, 1994, in the Bronx and graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School there. She attended The College of Mount Saint Vincent before transferring to Iona College, where she graduated in 2016.

Ms. Herrera, an only child, had a rich network of friends. She made a point of organizing social events, which often centered on food. In November she headed up an elaborate “Galsgiving” to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with her girlfriends. In January she put together a seafood boil at the home she shared with her mother and her father, Arnold Herrera, in the Bronx.

“She brought this real vivaciousness with the way she approached the world,” said Katrina Svoboda, a friend and fellow student.

Ms. Herrera, whose relatives have Puerto Rican and Cuban roots, had an affinity for working with families, especially Latino ones.

“Our field has been talking a lot about training clinicians of color like Hailey,” said Christiana I. Awosan, one of her professors.

Ms. Herrera understood how reluctant some people were to enter therapy, so she developed a gentle but straightforward way of explaining the process. She put it this way, Dr. Awosan said: People were like trees and needed to develop strong roots to support themselves and their relationships, which were the branches and leaves.

“She talked about it in an eloquent way that made so much sense to her clients,” Dr. Awosan said.

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